Fishing Charter Types: Choosing the Right Trip Experience

Last updated on May 21st, 2021

fishing charter tips

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Fishing is a pastime that we all love, and we all appreciate but sometimes we just want to take the work out of it and enjoy it for what it is. Therefore, seasoned professionals are available to take you and your friends and family out on the water for a good time and all you have to worry about is having fun.

Chartering a trip can be confusing because there are so many factors to consider. Not just the charter company itself but also other related considerations such as the weather for the time of year, the fish you are after and the legality of keeping that fish (if you are interested in keeping it), and so on.

There are many different types of charters and guided trips available ranging from large group tuna adventures to humble one-on-one fly fishing trips. It is no secret that shore fishing is fun, but the ability to be on the water is an advantage in and of itself.

Not everyone has a boat (and many do not want to own one). Charter fishing offers a hassle-free experience that gets you on the water and can increase your chances of catching fish in the region of your choice. Good guides and charters not only take you out and get you on the fish, but they also teach you things while you are out.

In this article, I want to describe for you the main types of charters and guides that are available to help simplify your decision and aid you in understanding their differences. Knowledge in advance is a great way to ease the stress of booking the trip and prepare you for it. So, let’s look at a few different types of fishing trips available.

Private Fishing Charters

fishing on a private charter

A private charter is simply what it sounds like. Basically, you will know everyone you fish with. This is the charter type to take the family and friends out and can provide long-lasting memories.

This charter type is a more personal experience, and you can better customize the trip with good communication with the charter company. Good communication is a topic we will get into later.

A more personal experience can sometimes mean a higher price, and I only say that because other charter types allow you to share the cost of the trip with others. You will find that the private charters tend to be more relaxed easy-going.

The relaxed nature of the private charter is mostly because they are typically a smaller group. Your guide can focus better on helping you fish. If you are not into large groups, then this is the charter for you, and I highly recommend it as a first-time charter.

Chartering in large groups can be extremely fun but also a bit stressful if it is your first time chartering. Try a smaller group and then work your way up is what I recommend. Your private charter will usually include a fishing license to cover everyone on board but make sure you have that confirmed before you go fishing. Your guide should be aware of all legalities of the area in which you are fishing.

Shared Charters

A shared fishing charter is a great way to save some money depending on the location and what you are fishing for. The only downside to this type of charter is that you fish with strangers. If you charter regularly throughout the season and you do not mind making new friends, this is absolutely the charter type for you.

Regarding the charter company itself, this type of charter is a great way to get more folks on the water more efficiently. One thing that I like very much about shared charters is the ability to make new friends with similar interests.

Shared charters will require good communication from everyone going on the trip, especially overnight trips that will require a large portion of the captain’s time. This type of trip is usually done in the same kind of boat as the private charter because of the smaller size of the party as well.

As I stated above, the shared charter is more cost-effective for most. Consider that it is not out of the realm of possibility to spent $1500 or more on a charter, so having a stranger help you with the cost of your fishing trip is not a bad thing.

That being said, I take my kids fishing almost every weekend. I feel like I am missing a business opportunity here. Obviously, a stranger fishing with you can be hit or miss but most charter companies get good customers that are just there to have a good time.

Party Boat Fishing

Imagine taking the ferry but the ferry was built for fishing. That is party boat fishing. Financially, it is like the shared charter but the cost of the trip is absorbed by more people, making the cost of your fishing trip even cheaper.

Because you are sharing this boat with a large group – some can book as many as 40 to 50 people – the cost is cheaper to participate. Remember, charter companies charge for more personal experiences. Here it is less personalized but that is offset by the cost savings.

The boat used for this is obviously larger than most others and there is usually ample room to fish, but it can get crowded at times. However, if you book yourself on a weekday party boat trip, you may encounter a smaller crowd than usual.

If a crowd of people is not your thing, you can always call the charter company and ask how many people the boat can accommodate, and they may even tell you if they anticipate having a full boat for your trip.

Just like with the shared charter, there is an opportunity to make new friends aboard the party boat. A party boat can stay out for as little a 3 hours or offer extended trips of 7 hours or more for those who want a full day of fishing.

Fishing Guides and Outfitters

fly fishing guide and client

An outfitter is a small operation that typically runs his or her operation on rivers, lakes, and streams. Back home in Washington, we had outfitters that took you inland up the river to fish for sockeye and steelhead.

You can expect a smaller, more personal experience with a guide or outfitter, and they typically have more intimate knowledge of the local area than most. Remembering that a more personal experience is more expensive, you can expect to pay a little more during peak season.

One thing that I have always liked about them has been their knowledge of the local area. Some of the most fun I have had out of the boat was recommended by my outfitter. Places to camp, fish on your own, where to stay, and sometimes more importantly, where not to stay.

Your outfitter will likely give you that friendly local fisherman vibe but there are some that are quite busy depending on the season so booking in advance is crucial for small outfitters.

If you want a great, small trip that will get you on fish try a local guide with the knowledge. Look at testimonials and reviews of every company you consider.

A Couple of Things to Think About

Charter companies make their money by getting you on the fish and making sure you have a great time doing it. Do not be afraid to spend on a good charter company or guide. You must keep in mind many different things when booking these adventures and we will go over them in detail.


If you are thinking about a charter, then write down a list of questions you might have. Do not be afraid to take a week or two to do this. These businesses love good communication because it saves them a headache when you get there.

They love clients that show up and know what is happening and what to expect. It really makes the whole experience better for everyone so handle all the logistics before you leave. Most charters will offer many things at the price such as license, bait, and tackle but be sure of all of that ahead of time.

Consider Reviews

Consider reviews as you would with anything else but also consider when the review was written. It is easy to be unsatisfied with not catching fish when it is not peak season for that species. All too often, good, hard-working outfitters and charter companies are slammed for no reason.

Reviews are a good indicator of the merit of a company, but if you find a good company and they are full, ask them for their recommendation. Often, they know who is good in town and who is not.

A Variety of Good Options for Fishing

The joy of being taken fishing is that you leave the work behind and as we have seen there are a few different ways we can go about doing it. All these options are good and there are more in-depth ways to do this as well, depending on the company.

Just remember to talk with your guide and tell them what your expectations are and ask what you can expect. They will not promise you anything they cannot deliver on usually which is a good thing.

Charter fishing is a great pastime and can be an adventure worth sharing with friends and family. Choosing the right option may not be easy, but it is well worth it. I wish you success on the water.

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2 thoughts on “Fishing Charter Types: Choosing the Right Trip Experience

  1. Jennifer Williams

    This is a personal preference that depends on your experience. If you have not been out before, I recommend fishing with a small boat (less than 7 knots), slower speeds in the water, and softer landings at night. This way you can invest more time into fishing and less time managing the boat. Regardless of what you’re looking for – knowledgeable captains can help find the perfect experience!

  2. Daniel Fang

    A very detailed and easy-to-understand blog on fishing charters. It’s true, there are a lot of options out there, and not getting the one you wanted can ruin the whole mood, to a great extent. Thank you for putting this out here!

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